NZ IFF 2020 Day 2

Happily the streaming for the festival continues to be solid, even as the booking remains opaque. Today was the chance to watch some kid-focused films, the existence of which is one of the things I greatly appreciate about the festival. Sadly, and surprsingly, this year the usually reliable short films let me down badly.

Animation for Kids 4+

A delightful collection of animated shorts for children. Clocking in at a little over an hour (not the hour and a half in the schedule!), a well thought out group of 5-10 minute films that, for the most part, don’t rely on dialoguie or subtitles for their effect. A great mix of whimsy and more serious topics, it delighted and engaged the adults and kids in our house.

Animation for Kids 8+

A much more mixed bag that the shorts for 4+. Several in this collection - Ties, about an adult leaving home; Matches, a seven year old talking about his views on life; and Emily - seemed far more like short films aimed at adults, with only Ties really being about children. And it was the one that was mired in a bunch of frankly awful stuff: do 8 year olds need a kid telling them that the perfect girlfriend spends all day in the bath prepping herself for the boyfriend she spends all day thinking about?

The delight of Athleticus, a collection of whimsical and amusing “what if animal Olympics”, or Away didn’t lessen this as the worst 8+ collection I’ve seen at the festival. My 8 year old, normally an avid film watcher, was bored for long stretches, and my 13 year old was pissed off by and contemptuous of the views about women expressed in Ties. A hard F grade from me.

Boze Cialo / Corpus Christi

Some years ago I saw the remarkable Dr Knock, a film I can’t recommend highly enough. Introducing us to a criminal who may or may not have conned his way into a career as a doctor, it leaves us to dwell in an unresolved ambiguity as to the character’s background, but presents us with his actions and ask what is the nature of a good and a good man. It’s a smart, funny, warm, and wonderful film and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

When I saw the summary for Corpus Christi I seized on it; after all, it has much the same basic premise in a different context: A young crook fakes his way into becoming a village priest, and we see what unfolds.

While the story has some themes in common, the execution is very different. In Knock it is ultimately a mystery as to the status of the Doctor. We don’t know if he qualified or not; we can only judge him by his work and the effects on the community. The man himself remains a mystery, and we have little view into his interior life. Here, though, things are quite different: Daniel is desperate to become a priest, inspired by the man who tends to the flock at his young offenders’ prison. The priest, though, draws a line under this ambition, blunty informing him that seminaries will never accept a convict. We know, therefore that he is a fake from the moment he first cons the village into accepting him as a stand-in for the incumbent. There is, however, a trade-off. While are not left with a blank slate in the way we are with Knock, we get something else, and just as interesting in a different way; Corpus Christi allows us to understand the effects on Daniel of his deception. With Knock we see how the man changes the village, which we see here, too, and Daniel upends the idea of what a priest can be, how a faith can be renewed in its vitality - but also how an outsider can challenge the cosy assumptions of a small community. But we never know Knock’s own life, while here we explore how the change in context for Daniel, no longer a crook surrounded by crooks, but a respected member of a community, creates a change in the man.

A funny, touching, but ultimately sad film, well worth the watch.